Study Groups Vs Work Groups

 

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Mr. Suave’s Business Minded-S1-E03- “Study Groups Vs Work Groups”

Study Groups Vs Work Groups

There are advantages and disadvantages when working/studying in groups. Today we reflect on what working in groups could help you learn about yourself, your talents, and the things you never thought you could do. As well, it can open a window at understanding how other people see you overall.

Working in groups is a great way to tackle large amounts of work. As the saying goes…’Two Heads Are Better Than One.’ But although that may be case, not always is that so.

Today’s topic takes me back to a time when I was attending the University of Phoenix. And the focus of that experience…’working in study groups’. For the most part, I personally hated working in study groups. Mainly cause of the luck of having a team member that could not pull their weight on occasion.

At UOP (University of Phoenix) there is a part of the curriculum aimed at making group assignments/presentations/projects, a part of every class. The idea is to teach students overall how to work and deal with other types of people. Both good and bad. For the most part, we can understand that most students there are working professionals striving to obtain an education. Since most of the students are paying for their education out of pocket…those students tend to be harder workers on study groups. However, even though the education is not for free nor a discount, there are a few bad lazy apples that manage to get in.

When I signed up to get my education…being very serious was a priority on my list at school. Prior to attending I did my homework online and talking to other students about the study group experience. I wanted to understand what was in store for me. Come to discover…the majority of the stories I heard…were not always the best.

Upon starting my education there, I went in with the mentality and focus to always be the group lead for any study group in which I ever participated in. I knew well that life happens, and at times we have people whose lives just get the better of them at times to where they lag effort in making their contribution. There were people who reflected this occasionally, and there were others who it was nothing more than the story of their life.

In my first year, the first few groups that I worked with were not fully the best. It was a battle to get to learn which students were in it to do the work…and which ones were not. Once I was able to weed out the bad, was able to focus on staying together with a group of people most of the way that were serious like me.

At UOP, you can have the chance to be able to pick out the study group members that are supposed to be part of your group for the most part. On occasion, the professor is the one that chooses for us. I despised those moments.

Personally I was always good at being able to do research and could easily write a 30 page report/essay on just about anything. I would call this ‘my talent to write 30 pages of Bull-Stuff’. My secret? Make an outline as you perform your research, and keep adding components to your outline as you do your research. As you make your outline based on your research, you are also making your references page as you go along even before you start writing.

With time, my practice was so good that I was able to generate 10 pages of outlines of nothing but items to write about. There were times that I had to cut parts to be within the limits set by given professors. But even thought I could write the full group assignment alone…still allowed each member of the group to do their part.

Having a super long outline was easy to breakup, and email each member what to write about if they did not have an idea on what to do. Which worked great most of the time. But what about when it did not?

The only times where this did not work was on both; those occasional moments where other team members were unable to pull their weight…or had a terrible team member that just would not do their part cause it was more important to be out at an outing with friends / a concert / drinking with friends…and the list goes on.

Before starting my studies, the thought…that I made real clear in my mind was to understand the value of my own personal grade. Although my personal assignments fully rested on my shoulders, I did not want to allow the part of my grade that relied on group work to be as affected. So by being the team leader and the one to put together the paper…had full control over that. In only maybe 4-5 groups/classes of my 4 years there; did I ever let someone else handle it. Which in 3 of those situations I came to regret.

Over time, you will get to know who your power players are. So it was no problem in knowing who I could expect to definitely see be able to turn in their work. But there was always plan ‘B’. Whenever I had weak links that would not do their part…I would just take it upon myself to type up their part of the assignment. I learned early on that if we just complain and turned in partially completed work due to a lacking member…the teacher would strike us all. But why? This was not fair.

Well, the idea of working in groups was to see if the other members could step up to compensate and see to it…that the job was completed. Take a moment to compare this to the real life. If you all are being paid to get a job done. Is it fair to turn in the project partially done with excuses? I think not.

Here is what I did after. Once the nightmare of dealing with troublesome team members was over, upon getting to the next class, I would ‘fire/kick-off’ these team members off of our team. I would encourage the selection of strong candidates whenever I could. Let someone else deal with that weak link. He/she is no longer my problem. And this worked beautifully the rest of the way.

Of course, I do have to admit…I did feel terrible about having to tell someone that they were no longer welcomed in your workgroup. But in real life…when it comes to you having to dish out the paycheck out of your own pocket…a very easy thing to do.

As a parent going to school…I knew that it was not easy to balance everything to get things done each time. There were many struggles that I had to face of my own. But with the extra weight of working with people who lacked…learned quickly how to take the initiative to get things done regardless of the situation. It was my part of the grade that I was fighting for, not theirs. Whether they choose to fight or not…that is their problem. My problem was making sure that my part of the grade was the highest it could be. Even if it meant doing someone else’s work and facing unfair dilemmas.

Over time I built a reputation amongst my classmen as being a very reliable person to work with. People would fight over being able to have me as a member of their work group. And based on what I learned or knew about the people around me…it was frequently my choice to choose with whom it was…that I was going to work with.

But there was another benefit to taking up the lead most of the way. I do recall a couple of times where I became ill and also had some very difficult times being able to perform my part. In those 2-3 times in my 4 years…had I not built up a reputation and the respect I had so worked hard for…I would not have had other people stepping up to help…when I could not perform. This only happened a few times. But when it ever did…boy did having that ‘Get Out Of Jail’ card come in handy while playing this educational Monopoly game.

Now that school is a part of the past, I still kept in touch with a group of people there. Also made a note about the people who could not pull their weight, just in case I were to ever come to work with any of them ever again.

So now that I am out in the real world (like I never was huh?), I have learned how to make performing above my means a part of who I am. A signature element that makes up part of my work ethic.

Being this hard worker in study groups helped build a name for me which in turn helped open doors for me afterward. And it also helped me avoid working with weak links in real life. But when it could not be avoided, it was that experience that helped me at times go to…making double my wage in less than a year with given companies.

So what did working in study-groups/work-groups teach you about yourself? Did you learn that you were a bigger person than you thought you were? Or did it teach you that you need to further develop certain talents. Would love to read what you have to say.

Sincerely,

Mr. Avelardo Lopez – aka: Mr. Suave


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